|Me (left) and Will (right) at the OHT trail head (S. McFarland)|
|Lake Ft Smith (Michael Goad)|
If I had paid attention I would have noticed that the further we got from the park the less maintained the trail appeared. Well, it eventually becomes an un-maintained trail. Tall grass, bush, brush, briars and lots of downed trees. At points so thick that we were slowed to a walk. And by that I mean more or less the last 5 miles. You simply couldn't see where you were placing your feet. The briars scratched at my legs, hands and arms. And did I mention the poison ivy? Right. We ran through sections of trail thick with the stuff. Both at ankle level and growing on the trees. I could only hope that I had enough sweat on my body to wash it off. Will mentioned the ice storm a couple of years back had really damaged the canopy and allowed the underbrush to explode. Mix in the exceptional drought over the last two years that limited prescribed burns and we are left with a trail that is severely overgrown in places. The final few miles that included the climb up to the top of White Rock (elevation 2,320 ft) were not enjoyable. I was tired, hot and acting like a Diva. I put it into overdrive and powered (as best I could) to the top. I simply wanted it to be over. I wanted to sit down in the shade. At the last trail intersection I stopped and waited for Shannon and Will and we made the final push together. I haven't been as happy to see a road in quite some time.
There is a caretaker that lives at the top of the park in an old house. There is also a lodge and three small cabins (all available to rent). On the porch of this house is a little slice of heaven. Several hummingbird feeders hang in the sun. I have never witnessed a hummingbird orgy until that day. Dozens of the little rockets buzzing in and out created this pitched frenzy and yet a soothing sound. On one side of the front door is a mini freezer packed with ice and ice cream and popsicles. On the other side of the porch is a mini fridge stocked with candy bars, sodas and sports drinks. All icy cold. It is an honor system. You take something you leave a buck in the jar. Will, always the gentleman, dropped $10 in for us and we got busy. I saw a Yoo Hoo get devoured. I worked a Dr. Pepper over pretty hard myself. Then I grabbed a nearly frozen Gatorade and headed over to a trailer under some oak trees to relax. I removed my shoes, sat back and enjoyed not moving. Eventually we all found our way over to the SSS. That's the "Super Scenic Spot". The short Rim Trail around the top features a number of vista views of the surrounding valley and other Boston Mountain Range peaks. We sat and watched a lone climber work his way up a small cliff face. Not a bad way to end the run.
|The prize at the top www.whiterockmountain.com/|
But wait, what is that? That tiny, almost microscopic thing on my leg. Is that a seed tick? Holy $#^%! There were hundreds of them. From my ankles up to my knees. Back to the little house I go in search of a hose. I scrubbed my legs with my dirty socks in hopes of removing as many of the tiny blood sucking critters as possible. I already new that by Tuesday my legs would likely look like a bad science experiment. Now I was positive. And they did. Still kinda do a week later. I had numerous scratches, some nice patches of poison ivy and too many chigger bites to count. I had them all around my ankles, on top of my feet, between toes, my calves, thighs, behind my knees, my waist, my junk, a few on my back and shoulders, in my armpits and even in my belly button. You hear that Ryan?
|The TOTs and Goats at Pumpkin Holler (S. Phillips)|
TZ would lead a group on a 6 mile jaunt while Stormy and Edward would support those of use opting for the longer 20 mile loop. The course is mostly maintained dirt roads (very little traffic) with a couple miles of asphalt towards the middle. We would be covering about half the race course loop before turning back on the road that bisects the preserve to return to the Nature Center. I took my hand helds and my plan was a gel every 20 minutes and water. I did have a small supply of electrolyte capsules. The first 6 miles went by easy enough (mostly a gentle descent) and by then we had seen the support truck twice. They had various trail grub in a tub, plenty of water to pass out and good tunes. Right at the 10k mark we hit truck and the asphalt. Edward commented something about "a fella could really make up some time on this 3 mile section of road during the race if he wanted to" or something to that effect. The seed was planted. Why not? After topping off the hand helds I dropped down to half marathon pace. The road section is rolling hills and, naturally, quite runnable. As I hit the dirt again at the table rock stream crossing the truck was set up and waiting. Somewhere along that 3 miles of road I entered race mode. I treated this stop as a race day aid station, quickly filling my bottles and heading out without little banter. I found myself now in the lead. Training run? Naw. Let's see what these ol' legs have in them today. Maybe show those young whippersnappers a thing or two.
Someone was nice enough to offer up some Tums for me. That and some cool water helped. As did changing out of the wet shorts, socks and shoes. No blisters, chaffing or even hotspots. I had taken the time before suiting up to liberally apply a coating of Slather by Skin Strong to my feet and toes. It worked. As did the Belaga socks. I had also made a good choice by running sans shirt to avoid the inevitable bloody man-nipple on a humid, warm day. I had kept up with the 20 minute gel routine but it was tough the last hour. I'm not sure if that is gonna work for me. Perhaps if I took in some more "regular" offerings in the first hour or two that might help keep the GI track happier towards the end. And I'm gonna try some antacids before starting too. I'll experiment with that. After getting to my cooler I downed an 8 oz protein shake and again fought the urge to barf. I lost. But only by a little. It was one of those burps with a little vomit mixed in. Before I realized it, simply by reaction, I had swallowed it back down. David just spit his "vurp" out on the ground. He had a sour stomach too. Maybe it was the high humidity and warm temps? I ran in a pair of older Brooks Defyance road shoes. Trail shoes are definitely an option for running out here. Nothing technical or even rocky out here. The race course does not include the hill we ran. It continues around the Preserve before hitting the Nature Center from the other side.